Once, at the Lucanian lake the opportune appearance of Spartacus saved them, and thereupon they pitched their camp near to his; nevertheless Crassus succeeded in giving employment to Spartacus by means of the cavalry, and meanwhile surrounded the Celtic bands and compelled them to a separate engagement, in which the whole body--numbering it is said 12,300 combatants--fell fighting bravely all on the spot and with their wounds in front. Spartacus then attempted to throw himself with his division into the mountains round Petelia (near Strongoli in Calabria), and signally defeated the Roman vanguard, which followed his retreat But this victory proved more injurious to the victor than to the vanquished. Intoxicated by success, the robbers refused to retreat farther, and compelled their general to lead them through Lucania towards Apulia to face the last decisive struggle. Before the battle Spartacus stabbed his horse: as in prosperity and adversity he had faithfully kept by his men, he now by that act showed them that the issue for him and for all was victory or death. In the battle also he fought with the courage of a lion; two centurions fell by his hand; wounded and on his knees he still wielded his spear against the advancing foes. Thus the great robber-captain and with him the best of his comrades died the death of free men and of honourable soldiers (683). After the dearly-bought victory the troops who had achieved it, and those of Pompeius that had meanwhile after conquering the Sertorians arrived from Spain, instituted throughout Apulia and Lucania a manhunt, such as there had never been before, to crush out the last sparks of the mighty conflagration. Although in the southern districts, where for instance the little town of Tempsa was seized in 683 by a gang of robbers, and in Etruria, which was severely affected by Sulla's evictions, there was by no means as yet a real public tranquillity, peace was officially considered as re-established in Italy. At least the disgracefully lost eagles were recovered-- after the victory over the Celts alone five of them were brought in; and along the road from Capua to Rome the six thousand crosses bearing captured slaves testified to the re-establishment of order, and to the renewed victory of acknowledged law over its living property that had rebelled.

The Government Of The Restoration As A Whole

Let us look back on the events which fill up the ten years of the Sullan restoration. No one of the movements, external or internal, which occurred during this period--neither the insurrection of Lepidus, nor the enterprises of the Spanish emigrants, nor the wars in Thrace and Macedonia and in Asia Minor, nor the risings of the pirates and the slaves--constituted of itself a mighty danger necessarily affecting the vital sinews of the nation; and yet the state had in all these struggles well-nigh fought for its very existence. The reason was that the tasks were everywhere left unperformed, so long as they might still have been performed with ease; the neglect of the simplest precautionary measures produced the most dreadful mischiefs and misfortunes, and transformed dependent classes and impotent kings into antagonists on a footing of equality. The democracy and the servile insurrection were doubtless subdued; but such as the victories were, the victor was neither inwardly elevated nor outwardly strengthened by them. It was no credit to Rome, that the two most celebrated generals of the government party had during a struggle of eight years marked by more defeats than victories failed to master the insurgent chief Sertorius and his Spanish guerillas, and that it was only the dagger of his friends that decided the Sertorian war in favour of the legitimate government. As to the slaves, it was far less an honour to have conquered them than a disgrace to have confronted them in equal strife for years. Little more than a century had elapsed since the Hannibalic war; it must have brought a blush to the cheek of the honourable Roman, when he reflected on the fearfully rapid decline of the nation since that great age. Then the Italian slaves stood like a wall against the veterans of Hannibal; now the Italian militia were scattered like chaff before the bludgeons of their runaway serfs. Then every plain captain acted in case of need as general, and fought often without success, but always with honour; now it was difficult to find among all the officers of rank a leader of even ordinary efficiency. Then the government preferred to take the last farmer from the plough rather than forgo the acquisition of Spain and Greece; now they were on the eve of again abandoning both regions long since acquired, merely that they might be able to defend themselves against the insurgent slaves at home. Spartacus too as well as Hannibal had traversed Italy with an army from the Po to the Sicilian straits, beaten both consuls, and threatened Rome with blockade; the enterprise which had needed the greatest general of antiquity to conduct it against the Rome of former days could be undertaken against the Rome of the present by a daring captain of banditti. Was there any wonder that no fresh life sprang out of such victories over insurgents and robber-chiefs?

The external wars, however, had produced a result still less gratifying. It is true that the Thraco-Macedonian war had yielded a result not directly unfavourable, although far from corresponding to the considerable expenditure of men and money. In the wars in Asia Minor and with the pirates on the other hand, the government had exhibited utter failure. The former ended with the loss of the whole conquests made in eight bloody campaigns, the latter with the total driving of the Romans from "their own sea." Once Rome, fully conscious of the irresistibleness of her power by land, had transferred her superiority also to the other element; now the mighty state was powerless at sea and, as it seemed, on the point of also losing its dominion at least over the Asiatic continent.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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